Source: 52-13 – My Commute
Ah, this will be a tough one. Right now, my only relationship is with my characters in my writing. That wasn’t always the case.
That was in high school, of course, and the person I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with was different from every other boy in the school. Then came college and the death of first love. I think I whimpered a little.
In college, there were dates, a few, but no one stood out as “the one.” There was a professor, but that went no further than flirting. There was also a Vietnam vet in several of my history classes. We talked about politics, the war, revolution, and almost anything else. However, I wouldn’t do drugs with him, and he moved on to someone who did.
So, rule one. Never date someone your mother likes, especially if you think it will improve your relationship with her. He was a policeman and a racist, and I wasn’t my authentic self with him. He didn’t see handcuffing and having nonconsensual sex with me as rape. He was also my infamous stalker after we split, the one I had to hold a gun on to get him to leave me alone.
Oh, and when we split, guess whose side my mother took?
I found “the one” at work in the early 1980s, and it was bliss for 20 of our 22 years together. The last two he spent in an alcoholic daze, and I wish I could say we drifted away. Rather, we both turned our backs and walked away: him because I wouldn’t enable any longer; me because I couldn’t live the rest of my life the way I had started it, with an alcoholic.
I’ve often said he was the person I was put on earth to love, and I do. I still do, 11+ years after. I always will.
A couple of years ago, I put my toe in the waters and had a couple of dates with a man in my area. Lunch dates only, and we decided on a “real” date–dinner and a movie. He didn’t call to set it up as he indicated he would, and I’d built up a good head of resentment. Then, I found out he’d died at home, alone, a couple of days after we’d chatted on the phone. I felt ridiculous, of course, for being angry, but I also thought it wasn’t my “right” to grieve. We’d barely known each other.
Even almost two years later, I think about what might have been.
That, and my life is full as it is right now. I’ve been on my own long enough I can’t imagine sharing time and space with anyone other than my friends and family. However, I miss male companionship. I miss the Sunday mornings sharing coffee and the newspaper in bed. I miss the walks, the boat rides, the long drives in the country where we talked about any- and everything.
I think about the promise of forever made by “the one” and wonder why on earth I believed in that fairy tale.
Excuse me, while I go back to writing fiction that’s happy ever after–more or less.
This blog post could be short. My initial thought when I first heard of ageism (well after its coining n 1969) was: Huh? How is that possible? What does that even mean?
Of course, I was young, new in my government career, and coveting jobs held by what we called “dinosaurs.”
Then, I became one of the dinosaurs and had to scrap for every promotion and award with kids fresh out of college. In the beginning I’d had to prove myself because of my youth and inexperience. At the end of my career, I had to prove I wasn’t in my dotage.
Until It Happens to You
Like most entitled folk, I sometimes “don’t see” discrimination until it happens to me, and, unlike racism or misogyny, ageism is sometimes subtle.
It’s grocery clerks or wait staff or nurses or anyone half or less your age who somehow decide that calling you “honey” or “sweetie” or “darling” is something you crave.
It’s people who, when you tell them you’re hard of hearing (from noise damage caused by airplane engines not age), they raise their voices, smile sweetly, and speak to you as if you’re five.
It’s having a mechanic try to BS you into believing something is wrong with your vehicle… Oh wait. That happened to me when I was a young woman. That’s more misogyny than ageism.
It’s people in doctor’s offices who look at your age on the chart and offer to “help” you into and out of your chair.
Maybe that’s not exactly ageism, but a preconceived notion that once you hit a certain age, you’re weak and infirm.
No, that’s ageism.
Ageism Can be Deadly
That attitude that once someone reaches a particular age makes it easy for caregivers in nursing homes or even in families to consider that person less than useful, less than what he or she used to be. That, unfortunately, can lead to various forms of elder abuse–from stealing money, emptying bank accounts, to actual physical abuse. The belief that the older a person gets the more useless they are renders them less than human. Dehumanization makes harsh treatment easier to occur.
I remember clearly something that happened in high school. My grandmother was visiting, and she loved the old drug stores that had lunch counters. She particularly loved their chocolate milkshakes. At this particular time, she was in her sixties, an age I can relate to, and she was dressed as she always did for an “outing”: in a nice dress, purple, of course, matching shoes and coat. It was misting rain that day, and she had a bright, fluorescent purple scarf tied around her newly coiffed hair.
To me she was just grandma. She always dressed that way–bright, outlandish colors, usually varying shades of purple–and I thought nothing of it as we sat at the counter waiting for our shakes.
Not so for two girls a couple of years ahead of me in school. My grandmother’s hearing was bad by then, but mine was perfect. I heard them make fun of everything about her, and I was…embarrassed to be seen with her, something I’d never been before. It wasn’t until years later I understood that was ageism, that those two girls decided my bright, active, vivacious grandmother was worthy of disdain because she was, to them, old. They dehumanized her, saw her as a useless thing, and that made it easy, even funny, to criticize her.
What if she’d ended up in a nursing home with people who felt that way?
As a retired nurse, she’d seen quite a few of what passed for nursing homes in the fifties and sixties, and her ardent wish was that she never go to live in one.
I’ve often joked I’m a sixteen-year-old trapped in a sixty-something body. I text. I’m tech-savvy. I’m a gadget nerd. I don’t dress like other women my age. Hell, I wear brightly patterned leggings, some with airplanes on them. One pair I have has a pattern of clouds and lightning, and one of those lightning bolts appears to emerge from my a$$. My version of shades of purple I suppose.
I had a friend say to me not long before my sixtieth birthday, “Now that you’re turning sixty, are you going to dress your age?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Are you going to stop wearing jeans and tee-shirts and odd shoes and wear something age appropriate?”
That was ageism. You can imagine what I said to that.
I’m lucky to have kids who don’t think of me as descending toward uselessness, and I think that’s key. If you’ve brought them up to respect the worth and dignity of everyone at all stages of life, you won’t be an inconvenience they shuttle off to an “assisted living facility.”
So, here’s my thought for those smiling, simpering, young things who call me cute names and talk to me as if I’m incapable of understanding a polysyllabic word: Suck it up, buttercup. Your time will come.
What are your thoughts about ageism? Experienced it yet? Guilty of it?
The “love” part of this topic for the 52-Week Writing Challenge I thought would be the easy part. As I considered it though, I have so many books I love and read and re-read constantly. The easy part became the hard part.
The actual easy part was the book I hate. I had to read for novel research, and I loathed it, every scene and character.
The Book I Love
While studying English Literature I became enamored of most 19th Century authors: Shelley, Hardy, Austen, Dickens, the Brontës. One book, however, stands out, and that’s Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
The story of an orphan much put upon by her extended family, who ultimately send her to a boarding school from this side of hell, and how she rose above her abuse to be a learned and dedicated governess touches me on so many levels. I have a weird family. I was the first female in that family to obtain higher education. I was a teacher who loved the kids but not the office politics. I found my very own bad-boy, Mr. Rochester. In my family’s history there were quite a few crazy women–who weren’t shut up in an attic.
Jane appealed to me because she stood up for herself. She remained skeptical of Mr. Rochester’s affection (and don’t get me started on the sh**ty way he expressed it), and she removed herself from the relationship rather than compromise her morals. She went off and became her own woman before she rediscovered Mr. Rochester.
And, most of all, it had a dark but happy ending. I didn’t get that in my love relationships, but I like reading about them because, hello, hope.
Jane Eyre is a book I’ve probably read a dozen times over the years, those intervals long enough that when I do re-read it, I find something new in it. Not bad for a 170-year-old novel.
Of course, now that I’ve talked about it a little, I have the itch to read it again.
The Book I Hate
I’m not a believer in censorship at all, particularly of hate speech. It’s nasty, it’s uncomfortable, but I prefer having it in the full light of day where everyone can see it for what it is: bigotry of the worst ilk. I’d rather it not be expressed in closed-door rooms or dark basements because if you don’t know about it, you can’t fight it.
A white supremacist named Dr. William Pierce so hated the U.S. government and the Civil Rights Act that he wrote, under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald, a novel about how a rightwing “heroes” overthrow the U.S. government and set up a new one where Jews, African-Americans, and other “mud peoples” are executed by mobs and hung from lampposts–The Turner Diaries.
The “second revolution” begins with the bombing of FBI headquarters–by a “martyr” in a rental truck who drove up to the front of the building and set off his bomb. (Sound familiar?) The rebels end up having to fight the U.S. armed forces and succeed only in small, commando-like raids. Until the novel’s protagonist, Earl Turner, flies a small plane with a stolen nuke into the Pentagon, leaving behind his diaries to “inspire” his fellow rebels.
Inspire this novel did, unfortunately. In the 1980s, an anti-government, white supremacist group from the northwest who called themselves The Order copied the novel’s exploits in almost every way. No bombs, but bombings were in the planning before one of their group turned informant. The FBI arrested many of them, and they’re in jail to this day for their involvement in the murder of a left-wing Jewish radio DJ named Alan Berg.
The reason I read this ugly tome was in my research for my series based on an act of domestic terrorism, I’d heard that The Turner Diaries was Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh’s favorite book and that he may have used it to learn how to make his bomb. Neither was true, though he had read the book, but it added to the monster image of him.
I’m a fast reader. A book the size of The Turner Diaries should have taken me a day or two to finish. It took me weeks. It was too dark, too hateful for me to take except in brief snippets. There is one scene that haunted my dreams for weeks.
I also don’t believe in book burning, but I’d make an exception for this hateful book. It doesn’t reside on any bookshelf in my house. It’s packed away at the bottom of a plastic bin containing all the materials I used for researching my series–buried in the dark where it belongs.
The sad part is, there is likely someone out there, now, in this current political climate for whom The Turner Diaries will be a book to love.
What about you? What books do you love? Which ones do you regret reading?